The year was 2015, and I was getting ready to cover my very first Rock the Park.
As a cub reporter with the Forest City’s newest entertainment publication, Our London, I was pretty nervous. Not only was this my first chance to shoot a big concert, it was also my first country show ever. I’ll never forget the line-up; Lee Brice, Thomas Rhett, Joe Nichols and Chad Brownlee. And while my live music photography journey definitely escalated quickly from there, it was indeed a night to remember.
So, you can imagine my excitement when the good folks at 519 Magazine asked me to jump back in the pit at Budweiser Gardens for the finale of Brice’s Beer Drinking Opportunity Tour — a much anticipated return to London — eight years later.
It was an assignment I just wasn’t going to pass up — and the American country superstar didn’t disappoint. Not that I had any doubt.
First up, Western alum and Universal’s latest rising star Josh Ross started off the night with a short but sweet set list, including hits First Taste of Gone and On a Different Night, as well as a crowd-stopping cover of Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls. Fact is, Ross’s stage presence is undeniable — and fans just couldn’t get enough. Luckily for the London area crowd, he’ll be back this summer, presented by Rock the Park, playing support to none other than Jake Owen and The Reklaws Aug. 17 at Delaware Speedway.
Next up was Saskatchewan songstress and 2020 Canadian Country Music Association Rising Star, Tenille Arts. After breaking into her two most notable hits, Somebody Like That and Back Then Right Now, the singer/songwriter launched into her latest single, Girl to Girl, all of which kept the crowd of thousands singing along at full volume.
Finally, bursting onto the stage to a rowdy sold-out Saturday night crowd, Brice kicked things into high gear from minute one — breaking into the 2020 smash, Soul.
From there, the hits came hard and fast, from Memory I Don’t Mess With, to Love Like Crazy, to what was no-doubt one of the most celebrated songs of the night, Drinking Class.
After treating fans to an epic singalong in the form of Garth Brooks covers Ain’t Goin Down (Til the Sun Comes Up) and More Than A Memory, as well as Emerson Drive’s Crazy Girl, Brice got a little more than he bargained for from Arts, who returned to the stage for a duet of I Hope You’re Happy now — dressed like a mug of beer (complete with silver sparkly boots), along with a set of brew goggles and novelty drinking helmet loaded with Corona for the headliner himself.
As the night marched on, Brice slowed things down with a seat at the piano for the constant tear-jerker I Drive Your Truck, followed by I Don’t Dance — which each saw the arena light up in a sea of glowing smartphones.
Before finishing up the night, it was Ross’s turn to pair up for a banger rendition of Parking Lot Party before Brice finished out the night with Rumour and One of Them Girls.
Over the years I think we’ve all learned, if there’s one thing you can count on in this crazy world, it’s the multi-ACM Award-winner’s ability to captivate a crowd and put on an incredible, joyful, high-energy performance. And as Saturday’s London crowd can attest, he did just that. Here’s hoping it won’t be another eight years before we get Brice back in the Great White North. Or the Forest City, for that matter.
Lee Brice – Beer Drinking Opportunity Tour
with Tenille Arts and Josh Ross
April 30, 2023
All photos by Whitney South